Dr. Murray M. Copeland, 79, chairman of Georgetown University medical school's oncology department from 1947 to 1960, who was president of the American Cancer Society from 1964 to 1965, died April 2 in a hospital in Easton, Tex., after a heart attack. He lived in Houston.

Since leaving Georgetown, Dr. Copeland had been affiliated with the University of Texas medical school and its M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute. He had been a professor of surgery there from 1960 until his death. He also had served as education director and vice president of the university's cancer foundation.

He was president of the D.C. division of the American Cancer Society from 1951 to 1953, and named a national director of the society in 1957. He was elected president of the National Cancer Society in 1964.

Dr. Copeland chaired the cancer control committee of the National Cancer Institute from 1955 to 1957 and was director emeritus of the NCI's national large bowel project. He also was a member of the National Advisory Cancer Council from 1958 to 1961. He was president of the Southeastern Surgical Congress in the late 1950s.

He was a graduate of Oglethorpe University in his native Georgia. He earned his medical doctorate at Johns Hopkins University, received surgical training at the Mayo Clinic and was a clinical fellow in cancer research at the Memorial Hospital in New York City. Dr. Copeland served with the Army Medical Corps in the Pacific and China-Burma-India theaters during World War II. He attained the rank of colonel and was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Survivors include his wife, Jean B. of Houston.